Google’s Panda algorithm grabbed the headlines earlier this year but the furor over ranking signal updates has since died down. But, as 2011 draws to a close Google has pledged to be more transparent about changes it makes to its ranking processes and has launched a regular blog post to outline subtle updates to its search practices.
If you’re been guilty of taking your eye off the ball since you factored in the Panda deal-breakers to your site and online content, cast your eye over these changes made by Google in the last four weeks and double check that you’re still on course. Failing to keep abreast of these smaller tweaks can make the bigger changes even more devastating to your site if you’re non compliant, making small changes crucial for those serious about good search positioning in the long term.
1. Cross-language information retrieval
Not as complicated as the title sounds, this simply means that Google makes it easier for those users searching in languages where results may be limited to get relevant English language pages, with the aid of Google translate. The languages affected by this change are Afrikaans, Malay, Slovak, Swahili, Hindi, Norwegian, Serbian, Catalan, Maltese, Macedonian, Albanian, Slovenian, Welsh, Icelandic. Although the Google translate service isn’t foolproof, this change makes it more likely you’ll pick up search traffic and potentially conversions from countries with a first language not represented on your website.
2. Snippets with more header content
The snippets Google uses to display on its search results page may change significantly as the search engine is now more likely to use text from the page itself than from the title or header of the page, as laid out in the source code. Google say that they are able to do this because they have a much better understanding of page structure but, it’s worth manually checking how your site is displaying and editing or clarifying the part of the page being picked up regularly if your search results presence is not as powerful as it could be as a result of this change.
3. Better page titles
This change may affect both how you title the page and how you go about link building. Google uses a number of signals when deciding how to title a page but, it now ruling out duplicated anchor text as a factor since it found that these can mislead the page title. Google will still use anchor text of links pointing to the page when determining the title but, won’t factor in any that appear to be ‘boiler plate’. To ensure the best title for your page, be aware of varying anchor text when link building, use variations of your keywords in the anchor itself and keep all incoming links as relevant as possible.
4. Extended Rich Snippets
If you sell an app on your site or have an app available for download, a new, extended rich snippet specifically for apps means you can now include more pertinent information to encourage click throughs and conversions. Rich snippets for apps now include space for fields such as cost and user reviews. Sites with apps available should update their rich snippet information to incorporate this extra data.
5. Fresher is better
A big change is afoot in the search results for fresh content with Google saying it’s made sweeping changes to how new pages are ranked. The search engine predicts around 35% of search queries will see a difference based on this change, with more recent results appearing more relevant. Taking full advantage of this change for more search visibility is as simple as committing more time and resources to producing fresh, unique and relevant new content.